Let’s face it: few of us enjoy having difficult conversations with those who report to us. If we’re honest, most of us probably try to find ways to hand off these moments to others or bypass them altogether. But, we can’t forget that iron actually does sharpen iron—as Proverbs 27:17 says—and courageous conversations can and do help productivity because they can eliminate frustration that strains relationships.
In fact, they can actually help people feel encouraged and, in many cases, can motivate people to get back into the game. Or they simply can be used to filter out miscommunication that can cause disagreements and resentment.
Whether we want to admit it or not, communication is the cornerstone to healthy work environments. And, leaders that learn how to have healthy courageous conversations essentially lay the groundwork for success and for setting healthy boundaries within the work place.
How do you, as the leader, create a safe environment for courageous conversations to be had? Here are a few tips:
Be open to honest communication.
As with all leadership, everything begins with you as a leader and how you choose to manage your communication with others. Sadly, some people choose the passive aggressive approach by hoping the problem will go away. It rarely does.
God chooses us to lead for a reason, and He calls us to a task and expects us to do the hard work by coming alongside others. You learn to lead by learning how to serve and one of the key elements in serving is correct communication. He places us in circumstances that stretch and grow us in ways that maximize our gifts and talents.
So go ahead and begin to see conflict as an opportunity for you to grow along with those you work with on a regular basis. Learning the art of correct communication makes good leaders into highly effective leaders.
When it came to leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt that his communication skills were lack luster. He wanted someone else to speak in his place! (Exodus 4:13) Imagine being in front of the burning bush and having a conversation with God about your lack of ability. It seems inconceivable but we often do the same thing and essentially take a step backward instead of forward when confronting and speaking with others.
Be willing to step forward and lead through communication
Moses may have seemed humble in his approach which is an admirable characteristic. But the one thing he failed to realize is that God issued His call to him—not to someone else. While the Lord allowed Aaron to join with Moses, He really wanted his chosen leader to take the lead, especially when it came to administering clear communication to the people of Israel.
When God gives you an opportunity to step into leadership, you can bet that He wants you to learn how to be an effective communicator. We’ve all heard that when God calls us to a task, He equips us for it. Leaders that don’t know how to communicate properly with their staff will have a hard time winning respect.
Courageous conversations reveal who you really are. You certainly don’t have to be a verbal wrecking ball but you do need to be concise, clear, and humble. The fact remains that leaders who lead through demonstration are much more likely to capture the support of those who work for them. Ducking and hiding from confrontation is easily recognized and is something that is often seen by others as a weakness and not a strength.
One pastor recently related how he had a staff member who was not working out. He tried everything in hopes that the employee would get the message and straighten up, but it didn’t happened. The pastor said that he literally walked around with a “knot in his gut for days.” He went on to confess that if he had not had a mentor pushing him into the conversation, he might have put it off indefinitely.
This story had a happy ending because once he talked with his staff member and took the time to go over the church’s policy in a given area, the employee’s actions changed. In fact, that person even stopped the conversation long enough to thank the pastor for caring enough to be open and honest about what needed to be changed.
Remember that communication is the catalyst for positive change
Change management is a hot topic today and much of the subject begins with correction communication and the willingness to care about those who work alongside you. As situations arise and the work changes, people will change with you when they know that you care deeply for them and their future.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself if there is something or someone that you have placed on sidelines hoping the problem or the individual will go away? It’s probably not going to happen and even if it did, you and the person involved would miss a tremendous opportunity to grow through the experience.
When you love people, and most pastors who are called into the ministry do, you will have a shepherd’s heart. This means you want to shepherd and guide individuals so they can grow and reach their maximum potential.
Courageous conversations can be used as catalysts for positive change. Never allow a dysfunctional situation to eat up more of your time than is necessary. Today pastors and Christian leaders face a number of pressing obligations and problematic situations. Now more than ever before, we need to be communicators of God’s Word on every level—from the pulpit to our staff offices.
Are there ways for us to know when the right time is to have that difficult or challenging conversation with a staff member? The answer is yes!
It’s time to have a courageous conversation when the situation is damaging your relationship with another person.
God wants us to have balance in our work environments. Peace at all cost is not true peace. Letting a problem fester until if becomes a large issue causes much more harm than good. Seize the moment, address the problem correctly, and then move on to new challenges.
A courageous conversation is necessary when the person’s behavior is impacting much of your staff or team.
There are people who are desperate for the attention of more than just the leader. They are people who play the game: some attention is better than no attention! It seems that they will do almost anything to upset the group so they can be at the center of discussion and attention. Say “No” to time stealers and opt out of destructive behavior by being courageous communicators.
When you have either hurt or offended somebody.
Be sensitive to the fact that many times the problem can lie with the leader. You may have spoken unclearly and your office staff or a staff member may not be sure what is best to do next. From your vantage point, they seem to be floundering. But from theirs, you are not leading and giving clear guidance on major and minor matters. Also ask God to help you discern if you have spoken harshly to a co-worker.
Be willing to own your brash actions or missteps and address the issue by admitting it and asking the person to forgive you. Leaders who know how to admit their mistakes do not appear weak. Instead, they appear strong, flexible, and sensitive. You can say, “That was not right,” and still lead with a sense of surety and strength.
Jesus was the ultimate communicator. He knew how to address a problem in a way that drew people to truth and dealt with issues in a way that helped His followers feel secure in their roles as they learned how to communicate well with others. Every Christian leader has an unbelievable opportunity to lead others into a growing relationship through work and worship.